The ongoing tribal unrest in Jharkhand against the amendments made by the BJP government in decades old and longstanding twin tenancy acts, the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act (CNT-1908) and Santhal Parganas Tenancy Acts (SPTA-1949), now has the support of one of BJP’s biggest nemesis in the country, Bihar chief minister, Nitish Kumar.
Kumar on Tuesday met a visiting delegation of tribal leaders led by ex-MP Salkhan Murmu and is said to have extended his wholehearted support to the tribals’ cause in the neighbouring state.
He also assured to consider their invitation to attend a mega tribals’ protest rally in Ranchi on May 17. Lakhs of tribal’s from across the state are expected to attend the rally to express their anguish and pledge to overthrow the BJP government.
“There is an emergency like situation in Jharkhand. The government in a planned manner is uprooting the tribals from their homes and villages. The state needs a leader like Nitish, who along with Lalu Prasad and others had actively participated in the popular Jaiprakash Narain led (JP) movement against the emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi government,” said Murmu, confirming that the Bihar chief minister has agreed in principle to endorse the tribal cause and support the ongoing Sengel (tribal empowerment) movement by joining the proposed May 17 protest rally as chief guest.
Similar protest rallies by tribals, days before the amendment, had turned violent and claimed a few lives.
The Raghubar Das government amended the two laws on November 23 last year after getting it cleared in the assembly through voice vote in order to facilitate infrastructure building. The amendment empowers the government to use agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes.
Majority tribals and few non-tribal leaders, including the government’s alliance partner, AJSU Party, are opposed to the amendment and have strongly demanded that the government roll back its decision as it would adversely affect the already marginalized tribal population.
The Raghubar Das government is unfazed by the protests. The chief minister has reiterated on umpteen occasions that there is no chance of rolling back the amendment. He has stressed that those opposing the amendments are tribals’ enemies ‘as they do not want them to grow and prosper.’
Murmu said, the tribal Sengel movement is enthused by Nitish Kumar’s association and support. He said Kumar would help expose the tribals anger and resistance against the purported RSS/BJP design to roll out a red carpet to business lobbies and industries at the cost of tribals displacement on national and international platforms.
“His presence at the May 17 rally would give the Sengel movement a new dimension and make it historic like the JP Movement,” Murmu said.
“Our CM had met the tribal delegation from Jharkhand and is soon going to confirm his participation in the May 17 protest rally,” a spokesperson for the Bihar government, who refused to be quoted, said.
Around 26 % of Jharkhand population is tribal. They have traditionally been loyal to regional and Jharkhand named parties. However, in the last assembly poll, a bulk of tribal votes went to BJP, thanks to the large scale development work carried out by RSS and its affiliates in interior villages. Besides, the RSS and its bodies also successfully managed to widen the rift among the tribes following the Sarna religion and those who converted to Christianity.
“The tribals have shed their differences and have now united for a bigger cause. The moderates and hardliners from both Sarna and Catholic practitioners have joined hands to overthrow the Das government. The RSS-BJP agenda now stands exposed,” said ex-IPS and a leader of the Sengel movement, Dr Arun Oraon.
He said out of the 81 members in the state assembly, 28 are tribals. “Pressure is being built on them to resign from the house,” he said.